LARAMIE, Wyo. — Ryan Cummings waited a long time to get back to right tackle. Wyoming’s Oct. 22 win at Nevada was Cummings’ last time on the field in 2016, as his season was ended by two fractures and torn ligaments in his left foot.
Cummings missed spring camp to recover from the injury. He returned for fall camp, but did not make it through the full month of practices at tackle. After Wyoming’s Aug. 19 scrimmage, Cummings made the move to left guard as true freshman Alonzo Velazquez took over the right tackle spot.
“That’s one thing, is I said I was willing to do it,” said Cummings, a Littleton, Colorado, native. “I’m willing to do anything that I can for this team to help. It’s something that we needed to happen.”
Cummings made the move as he was entering his fourth season of starting for the Cowboys — similar to how four-year starter Chase Roullier, now a Washington Redskin, made the move from left guard to center his senior year.
“I think it says a lot,” head coach Craig Bohl said of Cummings. “He’s got a team-first attitude. He’s embraced playing guard, and I think it’s improved our offensive line.”
Cummings was recruited out of high school as a guard but had never played on the interior line at Wyoming.
“I would say just kind of the speed of it (is different),” Cummings told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2eLF8u4). “Outside on tackle, you’re going against really high-speed guys, some of the best athletes on the entire field. Whereas the inside, you’re going against bigger, a little slower guys, but also you’re having to handle a lot of games going on. So it’s just a little different speed. At tackle you have a lot of room to work with and stuff.”
Cummings said while his high school experience has helped a little, the move from tackle to guard has been more of a challenge than the opposite move.
“Just being at tackle for years and just suddenly switching to guard,” he said. “It’s something that I knew might happen in the future, but I’ve just been so used to tackle, having everything engrained in my mind. All last week, I was learning, trying to get everything moving again.”
Cummings made his first start as a guard Saturday at Iowa. The Cowboys accrued just 233 total yards of offense, their fewest since November 2015.
“It went OK,” Cummings said. “Like I said, I’ve got a lot of stuff to work on. I wasn’t perfect, and definitely no one was, but I’ve got a lot of stuff to work on, but I thought I did OK.”
Cummings started at left guard in place of Gavin Rush, who started at the spot last year as a true freshman when Roullier moved. Bohl has emphasized that the staff intended to get the five best linemen on the field. Center Logan Harris and Velazquez got their first starts as true freshmen in the 24-3 loss.
“(Velazquez) did well,” Cummings said. “There were times where I felt like he might have been overmatched a little bit, but he handled his own, so I was really proud of him.”
“I’ll be honest,” running backs coach Mike Bath said, “in my coaching career it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a freshman come in and play the way Alonzo (played) this week.”
Cummings was making a debut, too. He had about a week and a half to prepare for his new position.
“I’m never going to be perfect, but it’s something that I’m striving to be,” he said. “It’s a challenge for me, but I’ve got to do.”
He expects to stay at right tackle for the rest of the year.
“It kind of got mentioned (previously),” Cummings said, “and it’s been thrown up a couple times, like, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about it, we’re thinking about it. When we make this change, we want to make this change. We don’t want you to be going back and forth.’ So it was one of those where it was like, ‘OK, let’s make it happen. Let’s make it happen. I’m ready to do it whenever,’ and that time came.”
And if Cummings has a post-collegiate football career ahead of him, he hopes that making this move will only help.
“Oh, big time,” he said. “Going from, what, I was scout team right tackle to starting right guard, got hurt, went to starting left tackle for two years, then back to right tackle and now left guard. It just shows that I’m versatile and everything.
“It shows that I’m not afraid to play a different position, and that I can excel at every spot.”
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com